Wednesday 12 April 2017

Black Weenie

CarnophageRight when I first started cubing black weenie was as good as white weenie, it was arguably better. This was in original Mirrodin block and as such there were very few good aggressive one drops for any colour. White only had Savannah Lions while black had both Sarcomancy and Carnophage!
Fairly quickly black weenie fell away as a thing as the white creatures got better and better. Black decks started to rely on synergies and disruption more than being an aggressive deck. Mono black decks of all flavours pretty much fell off all together not that long after the first visit to Zendikar.

White dorks are simply a massive amount better than the comparable black ones. Savannah Lions is now not close to the top 10 white aggro one drops while both Sarcomancy and Carnophage would still be in the top five black one drop aggro dorks. For every Soldier of the Pantheon white gets black gets a Tormented Hero. White already had more effective removal and so combined with the more efficient threats white weenie was able to remain in the meta and retain its tier one status consistently.

SarcomancyBlack has always had more options and tools than white and as such it has always felt like it should be able to put out lists that are competitive. Black has good hand disruption, some burst mana, it also has a selection of land disruption tools and it has a whole pile of card advantage on offer. White only has the mana disruption aspect and it is much more limited than what black can do. These various things should be able to make up for less efficient threats but so far I have failed to do so.

I have recently been thinking about new ways to approach mono black decks and one of the things I considered was a lack of focus in previous builds. Things like Hymn to Tourach and Sinkhole are a bit too powerful not to play in a mono black deck. It seems wrong to build a deck and leave out your best one drops like Inquisition on Thoughtsieze. Undoubtedly these are some of blacks best cards however the cube is not all about best, it is about most well suited. Historically I have tried to plug the gaps in blacks arsenal with these powerful cards however I feel a better approach is to focus on a maximum of one thing. If you are trying to build an aggressive deck you don't want to harm your consistency by reducing your threat count. Land destruction and discard effects are not winning you the game, if you Inquisition someone instead of making a 2/1 then you are not making the highest tempo play nor ending the game as quickly as possible. These kinds of effect are also rather situational and become dead cards quicker than most. While it might feel wrong to forgo some of these super powerful cards I think it is probably the way to go.

SinkholeAnother realization I had was in regards to a new style of aggressive deck that has recently arisen and so far used predominantly by red and white. There is now sufficient redundancy in playable one drops that you can build a 40 card deck that is 12-14 one drops and the rest two drops, perhaps a pitch spell and a key three drop such as Sulphuric Vortex. Just being able to play so much so quickly defeats a lot of decks. It is more consistent and more challenging to beat than higher curve versions of those decks aiming to get to 4 mana and chock full of really powerful cards. It seems like madness when you are cutting cards like Elspeth, Knight Errant for an Elite Vanguard but the results are hard to argue with.

Black has just about kept up with white in terms of number of available aggressive one drops. It doesn't feel like it to me as I perpetually cut the limp black ones as they don't see any play and are clearly worse than the white ones that do see play and as such remain in the cube. Kytheon might be substantially better than any one drop black has to offer however this significant power difference isn't nearly as pronounced when you are just going for the cheapest most aggressive thing possible. The Gnarled Scarhide gets just as much work done as Kytheon in most of your wins in the deck that ends it curve at two!

Gnarled ScarhideMy new vision for black weenie goes all out on one drops playing basically everything it can. It then plays basically no hand disruption nor mana denial effects to make room for more threats. The idea is to go wide rather than have better stuff. Without wasting time on disruption and taking full advantage of some burst mana and cheap removal you are able to get very far ahead on tempo. This should put you in a position to be able to push for a win before something like a Jitte can wreak you. The best way to answer awkward cards has always been to play a quicker and more linear strategy such that you can broadly ignore the problem cards. Black has never coped well with Jitte and often uses that as an excuse to pack hand disruption. The thing is that hand disruption is a shocking answer to a Jitte, you have a very small window to actually hit the thing and it isn't an answer that works alongside your game plan. Better to just have a deck that is too quick for Jitte to be that relevant than a slow deck with sub par answers.

The other thing this deck does is pack a lot of card advantage. This is not new to black aggro decks however it normally comes in the form of Necropotence which is powerful but inconsistent and slow. With so much redundancy in Dark Confidant effects it seems wise to use them rather than one off powerful cards you won't always see or be in a position to use. This is much like how white weenie decks pack a lot of their disruptive capabilities - on the back of Grizzly Bears! It then uses equipment or Crusade effects to turn its low power one drops and bears into more potent threats should the battle get to the midgame. Black can do these things too, it may not have quite the same quality in Crusade effects but it can make do sufficiently. In a deck going wide with one drops I prefer the Crusade cards to the clunky equipment. Jitte I would consider, having it makes you super safe against it in cube! Skullclamp is also a strong consideration but is more of a card advantage supplement than a creature buff. I would certainly play the Clamp over Necropotence in this list. That said Clamp works poorly with Crusade effects and is ultimately a bigger tempo drain than Necro, certainly something that would need careful testing to see if it could work. I think there is room for either Jitte or Smuggler's Copter but not both. The deck would be fine without either.

"Black Weenie"

Bloodsoaked Champion27 Spells

Chrome Mox

Fatal Push
Dark Ritual
Bloodsoaked Champion

Diregraf Ghoul        
Gnarled Scarhide

Tormented Hero
Vampire Lacerator              
Rakdos Cackler
Tormented HeroCarrion Feeder

Collective Brutality
Bad Moon
Dark Confidant

Asylum Visitor
Blood Scrivener
Pain Seer
Glint Sleeve Siphoner

Heir of Falkenrath
Gifted Aetherborn

Hall of Triumph
Mogis Marauder


13 Swamps

Dark ConfidantThis is the list I plan to start testing with. I may be able to shave off some of the weaker one drops in favour of some punchier cards. As low as possible is a pretty good starting place and it will show me any gaps the deck might have. There are a wealth of options to plug potential holes although a lot of them come in at three mana. Some of the back Dark Confidant cards are pretty weak and may well under perform in the deck. Pain Seer is marginally improved with any vehicles. Scrivener and Visitor scale well with the discard outlets, the pitch/imprint cards and just having a mentally cheap deck. Glint Sleeve may well be the worst although the evasion makes it a better threat despite being the clear weakest of the draw dorks.  Gifted Aetherborn is another potential cut, mostly being played as a source of lifegain. This deck looks fairly weak to a red deck, it would need to aggressively mulligan to a Bad Moon effect to lay before most of its dorks. Some mild lifegain to offset the hurt is nice if it doesn't stand to harm your potential tempo and Gifted Aetherborn is one of the cheapest options on offer.

There are plenty of potential filler two drop dorks. Pack Rat gives you some late game and some discard utility but is even more expensive than getting a Jitte online. Vampire Hexmage gives you a nice proactive answer to planeswalkers and a selection of other annoying permanents but it offers little synergy and costs a small amount of tempo compared to what you could play in its stead. Nantuko Shade hits very hard but it is a little too mana intense, this deck isn't really looking to have more than three lands in play very often. There are also of course the various pump and prot knights, the "can be fliers" ones are likely the best options there. Some shadow dorks are passable if you really want the evasion but I think filling out with card draw dudes is a better way to use your two drop slots.

If I need more removal I will look to the free cards first. Sickening Shoal is likely not enough as all your cards are so cheap. Slaughter Pact and Snuff Out are likely better but Contagion is the premium for this list. Other option include Malicious Affliction for value or Tragic Slip or Murderous Cut for tempo. The latter seems a little too slow even with your discard. Unless you get a bunch of dorks killed it will be hard to fire off in time.

As for potential three drops there are loads and loads but I really don't want more than two and it seems like the Hall is a necessary evil for this direction of play. The three iterations of Liliana for 3 mana all seem quite nice but are all on the slow side. Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Yehenni, Undying Partisan, Flesh Carver and Geralf's Messengers are all contenders with a lot to offer an aggressive deck and a nice high power level. The issue is again that they are all a little slow and with such a low land count, unreliable too. Increasing this decks curve much at all would require the addition of more lands.

The Results!

Mogis's MarauderThe deck performed better than expected in testing and I was very happy with the overall build. More evasion guys would have been nice but that was the only thing I found really wanting in the deck. Missing hand disruption and land destruction wasn't a problem at all and the increased consistency from ignoring those things was noticeable. Mogis Marauder showed why he is the three drop dork that made this list in testing. He was what you wanted to draw because he invariably had win the game written on him.

Both Cryptbreaker and Blood Scrivener were outstanding in the deck, able to draw so many cards and do all sorts of cute trickery. Scrivener is arguably the best Dark Confidant in this list! The deck had some very nice starts, it was fairly consistent and it was pretty hard to contain. Things like Fire Ice and Arc Trail are pretty brutal for it alongside things like Kitchen Finks and Jitte, all the usual agro dork deck killers! This came as no surprise but the resilience of the deck when actually facing such cards was impressive. A simple Bad Moon sorts out the Arc Trail issues quite well at least! It did make for a rather scary Ophiomancer that I had to face down but that was a known risk! It was part of why the removal suite had no cards that can't take out black dudes.

Hall of TriumphSpeaking of the removal suite the worst performing card by a long way was the Fatal Push. You wanted something that could reliably shift a medium sized dork out the way such as a Courser of Kruphix. Having to run in your guys to trigger the revolt does not make up the the low cost of the Push. Doubly so when it is something massive like a Sheoldred that you need to get out the way. I would totally cut the Fatal Push and nothing else. If I was afraid of black decks I would go for Go for the Throat. If I was afraid of my mana it would be Snuff Out. If I was scared of big green and white dorks I would go for the value of Malicious Afflication. Even things like Vendetta, Paralyze and Ulcerate came up as cards I would prefer to the Fatal Push in this particular deck.

While this is not yet tier one this is a potent deck. It does have things that other weenie decks don't have, most notably a tonne of card draw but also persistent dorks that make the usual counter of mass removal a lot less effective. With a few more actually good cheap black threats this deck could become a worthy cube archetype. While we are still leaning on Tormented Hero we shall have to be happy with being an impressive tier two sort of deck. With Amonkhet now being spoiled we are already one very solid card towards this kind of thing being tier one.

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